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9 Things You Should Know About Cardiac Arrest

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Cardiac arrest means an absence of cardiac activity — in essence, a person’s heart stops beating. While certain health conditions and other factors increase the risk of cardiac arrest, it can happen to anyone.

When someone has cardiac arrest, immediate medical attention — starting with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) — can be the difference between life and death. Here’s what you should know about cardiac arrest, including what to do if someone near you appears to be experiencing it.

1. Cardiac Arrest Is Highly Fatal

About 90 percent of people who have cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting don’t survive it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since about 350,000 people have cardiac arrest in non-hospital locations each year, that translates to hundreds of thousands of people dying from the condition in the United States annually.

“It’s thought that out of deaths in the United States, 13 to 15 percent are due to cardiac arrest,” says Eugene DePasquale, MD, a cardiologist at Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. That makes cardiac arrest one of the leading causes of death in the country.

2. Cardiac Arrest Survivors Can Face Lasting Health Problems

Mild to severe brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain is common in cardiac arrest survivors, who often need intensive rehabilitation once they’re discharged from the hospital, as noted in an article published in the Lancet in October 2021.

Between 30 and 50 percent of cardiac arrest survivors experience cognitive deficits as a result, according to an article published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience in March 2018. Survivors are also disproportionately burdened by mental illness — about 40 percent have anxiety, 30 percent have depression, and 25 percent have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the aftermath of cardiac arrest.

3. Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack

When someone collapses because of a heart condition, many people think it’s a “heart attack.” But that’s not what cardiac arrest is at all.

Cardiac arrest and a heart attack are “completely different,” says Anezi Uzendu, MD, an interventional cardiologist and an American Heart Association volunteer. “With cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating, and you can’t wait for emergency services.” A person will be completely unresponsive, and you need to start CPR right away.

In contrast, when someone has a heart attack — which happens when blood flow to the heart is blocked — they tend to experience symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath, but they’re still conscious and responsive. It’s important to get immediate medical attention, but unlike with cardiac arrest, no treatment is required prior to arrival of emergency medical services for a heart attack.

4. Cardiac Arrest Can Happen to Anyone Without Warning

Not only has Dr. Uzendu studied and treated cardiac arrest, he experienced it himself at age 25, while playing basketball with friends at a gym.

“Halfway through a game, I collapsed and didn’t have a pulse,” he says. “The great thing was that people knew there were trained — they CPR, and there was an AED [automated external defibrillator] available. They used the training they had to help save my life.”

Uzendu was healthy, considered himself an athlete, and had no medical history that suggested an elevated risk of cardiac arrest. Yet on that day, he would have died without the immediate attention he got first from his fellow basketball players and then from emergency services.

In many cases, though, cardiac arrest happens in people with known risk factors. A leading cause of cardiac arrest is coronary artery disease (CAD), according to Dr. DePasquale — a condition that can be treated and controlled.

Other health conditions that increase the risk of cardiac arrest include certain arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders), as well as cardiomyopathies — heart disorders that make it difficult to pump blood throughout the body.

5. Cardiac Arrest Doesn’t Only Happen During Physical Activity

In fictional portrayals of cardiac arrest, a character often collapses while performing some kind of physically demanding task. In real life, a person may or may not be doing something physically taxing when cardiac arrest happens.

“There has certainly been attention to cardiac arrest among athletes,” says DePasquale. “When that does happen, it gets attention because it’s typically at a venue with a lot of people.” But cardiac arrest “can easily happen when you’re not doing anything or taking it easy,” he adds.

While cardiac arrest that happens in public places tends to get more attention, about 7 in 10 cases occur when a person is at home, according to the CDC.

6. CPR Is Critical to Survival in Cardiac Arrest

CPR performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can double or triple a person’s chances of survival, according to the CDC. Unfortunately, fewer than half of all people receive CPR from a bystander, according to Uzendu — and the numbers are barely different for people who have cardiac arrest at home versus in public.

It’s important for everyone in your household to know how to perform CPR if possible, Uzendu says. “Most of the time cardiac arrest is happening, it’s going to be someone in a household,” so you’re more likely to encounter a loved one who needs CPR than a stranger.

Before starting CPR, Uzendu says, you should check to see if the person is responsive by asking if they’re okay and tapping or shaking them. If they’re not responsive, check to see if they’re breathing normally. If not, immediately call 911 and start chest compressions.

Hands-only CPR consists of only two steps, according to the American Heart Association:

  1. Call 911 and put your phone on speaker (or get someone else to call).
  2. Push hard repeatedly, at a moderately fast pace, on the center of the person’s chest.

Uzendu laments that many people hesitate to perform CPR because either they don’t know how or when to do it, or they don’t feel comfortable doing it. “If someone doesn’t have a pulse or a heartbeat, you can’t make them worse,” he says. “You need to act.”

7. Anyone Can Use a Defibrillator (AED)

In addition to administering CPR, you should use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available. AEDs are available in many public places, including schools and universities, airports and other transit hubs, large offices, malls, grocery stores, and gyms.

To use an AED, all you have to do at first is turn the device on. Almost all modern devices are equipped with an audio system to guide you through all the necessary steps, according to Uzendu.

Based on the instructions given by the AED, you’ll need to expose the person’s chest and put the device’s pads on it. The device will analyze the person’s heart rhythm and advice to give an electric shock if needed, as many times as needed. Many devices also tell you when to perform or pause CPR.

8. Hospital Care for Cardiac Arrest Is Important, but May Come Too Late

The American Heart Association emphasizes that a “chain of survival” is needed for a person to have the best chance of surviving cardiac arrest. The steps in this chain are calling 911, performing high-quality CPR, defibrillation, advanced CPR by medical professionals, hospital care, and recovery.

Many different hospital treatments may be promised for cardiac arrest patients, according to Uzendu — including use of an external device to pump blood, inserting a stent to treat any heart blockages, and cooling the person to protect their brain once normal heart rhythm is restored. But doctors are still figuring out how to maximize survival with the tools they have.

“A lot of these therapies might not be beneficial in everyone,” says Uzendu. “I think the next phase of research is going to be trying to figure out which patients benefit from which therapies.”

9. Awareness and Prevention Are Key to Reducing Cardiac Arrest Deaths

Since coronary artery disease (CAD) is a leading cause of cardiac arrest, one of the best ways to reduce cardiac arrest deaths is to make sure people get screened and treated for CAD, according to DePasquale.

“Coronary artery disease is something that there are excellent treatments for,” says DePasquale. “There are also risk factors associated with it, such as high cholesterol or hypertension. If you’re seeing your physician regularly, that’s something that could potentially be controlled.”

But as much as prevention matters, Uzendu emphasizes the importance of recognizing and responding quickly to cardiac arrest.

“Everyone who is able to should learn CPR, how to save a life,” Uzendu urges. “Early defibrillation and bystander CPR can change the trajectory of cardiac arrest.”

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Fife family tell of daughter’s journey

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A Fife family whose relationships struggled under the pressures of an eating disorder will enjoy Christmas together this year.

Last Christmas Amy Young from Cellardyke was away from home, very ill and being treated in a specialist unit for eating disorders.

Warning: This article contains sensitive information about disordered eating.

As Amy’s recovery continues, she and her parents hope telling their story will help others feeling desperate or needing support.

Here, Amy, 28, shares how the cost of living led to her health crisis. And mum Celia and dad Dan tell of their joy and pride at their daughter’s progress.

“When you’re in the grip of an eating disorder and somebody tells you things can get better it’s impossible to believe them,” Amy explains.

“I’ve been in that horrible, horrible place. And I’m telling you it’s true, recovery is possible and you can be happy again.”

Amy with mum Celia and dad Dan. Image: Gareth Jennings/DC Thomson.

Amy grew up in Fife, a high achiever, studying at St Andrews before moving to Milton Keynes five years ago to pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

“That’s when my eating disorders started,” she explains. “I’d not moved away from home before and I had a normal relationship with food growing up.

‘Cost of living crisis’

“For me it was living on a limited budget that started it. First I cut out my socializing budget, which made me quite isolated, then I cut down spending on food.

“This is something we’re seeing in this cost of living crisis too, eating disorders increasing as people restrict.

“Around helped experience their first symptoms of an eating disorder in adulthood.”

Amy walking in St Andrews.
Amy’s recovery included her finding a new, less stressful, job as a tour guide in St Andrews. Image: Gareth Jennings/DC Thomson.

Amy’s illness later spiraled into bulimia and over-exercise but, as with many eating disorders, she kept it secret from her family.

“It’s so easy to tell yourself you’re in control,” Amy says. “You don’t realize you’ve really lost control.”

‘Watching someone you love change’

For Celia and Dan this was one of the most difficult things to deal with.

Celia explains: “It came as a huge shock and, for a long time, Amy battled to keep us in the dark and silent.

“It was a truly dreadful feeling watcing someone you love changing from a happy, energetic, fun-loving girl to someone you hardly recognize.

Mum Celia and Amy.
Mum Celia says discovering Amy had an eating disorder was a huge shock. Image: Amy Young.

“As a mother I felt I’d failed – how could Amy have reached this place ‘unnoticed’?

“I really wanted to find someone whose loved one had developed the illness as an adult living away from home, and this I never did.”

When Amy finally got help (a close friend insisted she go back to her GP after feeling dismissed the first time round) she let her parents back in.

‘I’d pushed my parents away’

“I’d kind of cut them out of my life, pushed them away, as eating disorder brain thrives on isolation,” Amy explains.

The road to her recovery came last year when she was admitted to the Regional Eating Disorders Unit (REDU) at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

Celia says: “When REDU stepped in we breathed a sigh of relief that someone might be able to stop her dying.

Amy, pictured walking with her parents, is grateful for her parents'
Amy is grateful for her parents’ amazing support. Image: Gareth Jennings/DC Thomson.

“I’ll never forget Amy asking me to take photos of her on the day she went in, so she would remember not to get to this point ever again.

‘Tears streamed down my face’

“Tears streamed down my face as I saw the true nature of this terrible illness.

“Last Christmas Day I was allowed into Amy’s room for the first time. Dan (due to lockdown) stood outside peeking through cracks in the frosted window covering.

“We’re so thankful she stuck with it and forever grateful to the staff that nursed her back from the brink.”

And this Christmas will be very different.

Amy wants to socialize with friends over the festive period, as her eating disorder recovery continues.  Image: Amy Young.
Amy wants to socialize with friends over the festive period, as her eating disorder recovery continues. Image: Amy Young.

The family will be together and Amy will see her friends, including a Christmas lunch with the local wild swimming group she’s joined.

“Last year I had given up hope,” says Amy, who now works as a walking tour guide in St Andrews. “My parents have been amazingly supportive.

Support with Christmas

“This year I realize Christmas is just another day. There can be lots of pressure for it to be this perfect day with lots of socializing around food and drink.

“Beat has advice and an online course about coping with Christmas and practical tips that can help too.

“If you’re dreading Christmas, I know it can be hard, life doesn’t have to be like this.”

Celia agrees: “We’re at a place I never thought we’d get to. We’ll be forever proud of Amy. Speak to BEAT, find a support group, and write to your loved one what you can’t say to their face.”

  • Amy is doing a walk and cake fundraising challenge for REDU; click here to donate.

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[Fife family tell of daughter’s journey]



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Study finds more tickborne illnesses across Canada through more rigorous testing

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A Quebec-based researcher is calling for more comprehensive testing to monitor ticks, noting that pathogens other than Lyme disease are being found in ticks across Canada.

Kirsten Crandall is a PhD candidate at McGill University, and says one pathogen, Babesia odocoilei, is being found in animals like elk and deer in Saskatchewan.

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Crandall said that pathogen, as well as another, Rickettsia rickettsii, are being found outside their historical geographical region.

“The reason why these two pathogens are especially important, the Babesia pathogen can actually cause babesiosis, which is a disease that humans can contract. And then Rickettsia can cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), which is also another disease which humans can contract,” Crandall said.

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She said their study, brought together with findings from McGill University and the University of Ottawa, found these diseases in ticks and small mammals, but said there’s potential for them to spread to people.

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Nova Scotia has the highest tick-to-human ratio in the country: biology professor

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes babesiosis as a disease caused by microscopic parasites that infected red blood cells.

It notes that it’s normally found in small mammals, but there have been a few cases found in people.

Symptoms of babesiosis include a fever, chills, headache, sweats, body aches, loss of appetite, nausea or fatigue, with the CDC adding that it could be severe or life-threatening for people with pre-existing health conditions.

Rabbit ticks with Rickettsia.

Kirsten Crandall/ McGill University

RMSF is described as a serious tickborne illness that can be deadly if not treated early.

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The CDC lists symptoms of RMSF like a fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, muscle pains and lack of appetite.

Long-term health problems could lead to permanent damage like amputation, hearing loss, paralysis or mental disability.

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Experts expect bad year for ticks as disease carrying bugs expand range in Canada

Crandall said the only reason they found these pathogens was through more comprehensive testing, and part of the study is pushing for more monitoring of ticks, adding that they found pathogens not typically seen in Quebec.

“We tested all of the different tick life stages, including larvae, which are not typically tested in surveyance efforts. And we’re testing for additional pathogens, rather than those that are more common.”

Kirsten Crandall doing field work in her protective gear.

Kirsten Crandall/ McGill University

She said this study is looking beyond what we typically look for in studies related to ticks.

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“If we’re not even aware of where these ticks and these tickborne pathogens are located, how are we able to protect ourselves when we’re going outdoors, or when we’re out enjoying time with others?”

Crandall said we’ve become very aware of Lyme disease, but we don’t know as much about other pathogens that are starting to become much more common in ticks found in Canada.

“If we’re finding concentrations of ticks with these pathogens, then potentially we will start seeing human cases of these diseases.”

Click to play video: 'Prolonged Tick Season in Nova Scotia'

Prolonged Tick Season in Nova Scotia

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Growing Need for Mental Health Care Straining Existing Resources

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Demand for treatment of anxiety and depression remained high for the third consecutive year as the demand for the treatment of trauma- and stressor-related and substance use disorders has increased.

The demand for mental health treatment continues to grow as many psychologists do not have the capacity to add new patients, according to a new survey by the American Psychological Association (APA).

“The national mental health crisis continues,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA CEO, in a press release. “If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. Psychological science shows that social support is key to developing resilience, so if you are having difficulty accessing care in a timely way, reach out to others to find support and identify ways to cope.”

The APA’s 2022 COVID-19 Practitioner Impact Survey evaluated how psychologist practice have been altered by the pandemic. The survey collected response from 2295 doctoral-level, active licensed psychologists in the United States from September 20 to October 7, 2022.

The survey showed that the demand for anxiety and depression treatment remained high for the third consecutive year as the demand for treatment for trauma- and stressor-related disorders and substance use disorders has increased as well. For example, 6 in 10 practitioners said they no longer have openings for new patients, approximately 46% said they are unable to meet the demand for treatment, and approximately 72% have longer waitlists than prior to the start of the pandemic.

Psychologists reported that they are contacted by a weekly average of more than 15 potential new patients seeking care. The survey also found that nearly 8 in 10 psychologists are seeing an increase in the number of patients with anxiety disorders since the start of the pandemic. Further, 66% saw an increase in demand for treatment for depression.

Approximately 47% had increased demand for substance use treatment and 64% saw an increase in demand for trauma treatment. Two-thirds of the psychologists in the survey reported an increase in the severity of symptoms among patients in 2022.

The survey also found growing demand for mental health services from young people and health care workers. Across all age groups, the largest growth was seen in adolescents between 13 and 17 years of age seeking care, with 46% of psychologists reporting increases over the prior 12 months. Many psychologists also saw increases in patients between 18 and 25 years of age and children under 13 years of age over the same period.

Approximately helped psychologists observed an increase in health care workers seeking treatment since the start of the pandemic.

“Having timely access to psychological services is critical for addressing the needs of those diagnosed with behavioral health challenges,” Evans said in a press release. “But we need to tackle this problem with a variety of solutions, beyond individual therapy. We need to support and expand the workforce, promote integrated behavioral health into primary care, improve mental health literacy, use technology and innovation to expand reach and improve efficiency. But critically, we must expand our paradigm for addressing behavioral health—especially if we are to successfully address health disparities—by using more public health strategies to reach people earlier and in the places where they live, work, play and worship.”

The survey also found that 11% of psychologists are seeing all patients in person, which grew from 4% in 2021. Telehealth is still growing in use, with more than half of psychologists seeing some patients remotely and some in person, and 31% seeing all patients via telehealth, which is down from 47% in 2021.

Because of the increase in demand, 45% of psychologists said they felt burned out. However, most psychologists said they have either sought peer consultation or support to manage burnout, were able to practice self-care, and have been able to maintain a positive work-life balance.


Increased need for mental health care strain capacity. American Psychological Association. November 15, 2022. Accessed November 16, 2022. 47%25)%20said,symptoms%20among%20patients%20in%202022.

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